Vemkar (Վէմքար) is the Digital Ministry of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, it is the online interface of the Diocese’s vision Building up the Body of Christ. The mission of the Eastern Diocese is to serve and support the faithful of the Armenian Church within and without, which includes providing educational resources not just for parishes, but for all the faithful of the Armenian Church to use for the edification of their faith and for the building up of the Body of Christ. To that end the Diocesan Ministries staff members work creatively to teach and make relevant how the Armenian people over time have traditionally and uniquely received, experienced, understood, digested, and expressed the Christian faith within their particular historical and cultural context, how we developed an understanding of how to properly live the Christian life, and ultimately, how we have been indelibly marked by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Vemkar refers to a flat stone that is consecrated by the bishop embedded within the center of the altar, upon which the chalice or Gospel book rests during Badarak.
For almost 2,000 years, the Armenian Church has grown in the mystery of the Gospel as the person of Jesus Christ, the “Good News” who can be known, loved, and celebrated. Tradition tells us that among the twelve Apostles, Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Armenia.
Following the evangelistic efforts of these “First Illuminators,” the faith in Armenia grew due to the early presence of other Christians. Eventually it was the evangelization efforts of St. Gregory the Illuminator that established Christianity as the official religion of Armenia around the year 301 with the baptizing of King Drtad, the royal household, and the princely families. Prior to being chosen as the first Catholicos, St. Gregory had a vision where he saw Christ descend and strike the earth with a golden hammer. It was on that very place St. Gregory had the mother cathedral built and named after the Mother of God. The site was named “Etchmiadzin,” meaning “descent of the Only-Begotten,” referring to Christ as the Son of God.
Among the many things we believe and practice in the Armenian Church, it is the Nicene Creed that summarizes our Christian faith regarding who God is and who we are in relation to him. It unites Christians in common faith as a single worshipping body ensuring we grow together in the true and right knowledge of God. In Armenian, the Creed is called Havadamk, referring to its first word meaning, “we believe.”
The Armenian Church of America was officially established by Catholicos Mkrtich Khrimian in 1898. Due to growth, the Church has since been divided into Eastern and Western dioceses, each with their own respective jurisdictions. Within the Eastern Diocese, which ranges from the East Coast through the Midwest, there are approximately 63 organized and mission parishes. The head of the Eastern Diocese is the Primate (Aratchnort)—currently His Grace Bishop Daniel Findikyan, who shepherds the faithful of his diocese and serving as president of the Diocesan Council, governs its affairs.
Bishop Daniel Findikyan was elected in 2018 as the Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, and elevated to the rank of bishop in 2019. It is significant that Bishop Daniel is the first Armenian Church Primate to be born in America, and his consecration as a bishop makes him only the second American-born clergyman to attain that rank. Bishop Daniel has earned degrees from St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, the City University of New York, and the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He has served as dean and professor of liturgical studies at St. Nersess Seminary, as professor of liturgical studies at St. Nersess. as director of the Eastern Diocese’s Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center, and became a visiting professor of liturgy at Notre Dame University and the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He is a member of several scholarly and ecumenical associations, and has authored numerous academic and popular articles. Bishop Daniel began his service as the 12th Primate of the Diocese, succeeding the 28-year tenure of Archbishop Khajag Barsamian who ordained Bishop Daniel as a celibate priest in 1997. He is a vartabed of the Armenian Church and member of the brotherhood of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin. He was born in Ft. Worth, Texas and is a loyal fan of the Dallas Cowboys.